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Rights of passage

Sara Bubb answers NQTs' most frequently-asked questions

Only recently, a headteacher told me how lucky her NQT was because she had been released for half a day a week. She was wrong: the new induction provision is not about luck and favours, it is a funded statutory entitlement that heads are required to deliver by law. Make sure you know what you have a right to expect.

What am I entitled to as an NQT?

* A 10 per cent reduction in timetable.

* A job description that doesn't make unreasonable demands.

* Meetings with the induction tutor, including half-termly reviews of progress.

* An individualised programme of support, monitoring and assessment.

* Objectives, informed by your strengths and areas for development identified in the career entry profile, to help you meet the induction standards.

* At least one observation each half term with oral and written feedback.

* An assessment meeting and report at the end of each term.

* Procedures to air grievances.

Issues raised by students and new teachers

The school says it can't afford to give me 10 per cent release time.

The DfEE gives LEAs money to delegate to schools to cover the 10 per cent release and other induction-related costs. From Easter, this will be around pound;1,000 a term per NQT - plenty to cover the release time.

My half-day for induction is often cancelled because of staff sickness There will inevitably be times when this happens, but your induction time should be protected as far as possible and, if missed, should be made up at some other time. The money the school gets for you is for covering your induction time, not other people's sick leave.

What happens if I fail induction?

If your head and LEA think that you do not meet the induction standards, you won't be allowed to teach in a maintained school or non-maintained special school.

However, you can appeal against the decision. You would be able to teach in an independent school, a city technology college, or work as a private tutor. Your qualified teacher status is not taken away.

Who must complete the statutory induction period?

Everyone who qualified after May 1999 has to complete an induction period to work in state schools in England. If you received your QTS before 1999 but have not taught, you'll still be called an NQT but you won't have to pass the induction standards.

Where can I do statutory induction?

These regulations only apply to England, Guernsey, Jersey, Gibraltar and the Isle of Man. Scotland has a two-year probation period, which is soon to be cut to one. Northern Ireland has an induction stage in their teacher education. QTS and induction in each country is recognised in England and vice versa.

Wales does not yet have induction arrangements but plans to introduce them in 2003. Teachers who qualified in England after May 1999 but teach abroad will have to do induction when they return.

Can I do induction as a supply teacher?

Yes, if you do supply on a regular timetable in the same school for a term, you should be on induction. The headteacher should treat you the same as a permanent employee on induction, and will get money from the LEA for you. But to qualify, you can work no longer than a year on engagements of less than one term.

This period begins when you take up your first placement as supply teacher, and ends one year later, no matter how much or little work you do in that year.

Is there a time limit between qualifying and starting induction?

No. You can also take a break after the first or seond of the three terms in the induction period, if you need one.

The only thing that has a time limit is supply work.

My first observation was just before half-term. Feedback - 11 days later - was "everything fine". But I was disappointed by the delays and the superficiality.

You are right to object. Your induction tutor may have thought she was doing you a favour, so tell her how you feel. You should be observed at least once in every six to eight weeks. The first one should have been within the first four weeks, not just before half term. It would be wise to keep a record of your induction support and assessment, and note issues such as the late first observation.

At future planning stages, discuss arrangements such as dates, times and the focus of the observation. Ensure that your induction tutor knows what you would find most useful. Arrange a time to discuss the lesson, and a length of time, ideally within 24 hours of the observation.

Everyone says I'm doing well, so no-one is setting objectives, observing or meeting me.

Induction is statutory for all NQTs. Even the very successful have the right to be challenged so they become even more effective teachers. Be proactive in asking for meetings and observations.

Can an NQT refuse to cover for absent colleagues?

No, not legally. The School Teachers' Pay and Conditions of Employment says that teachers' duties include supervising and, "so far as is practicable", teaching any pupils whose teacher is not available, though this is generally restricted to the first three consecutive days of absence.

As an NQT, your 10 per cent timetable reduction should be protected as far as possible so that you can complete induction activities. In practice, this means you should only be used for cover as a last resort.

It would be useful to keep a record of what cover you have had to perform and raise the issue with the school if you think it is hindering your progress.

I am unhappy at school and want to move. I am worried that leaving after one year will damage my career and my head will write a bad reference.

Staying where you are unhappy could be much more damaging. I moved schools after my first year and never regretted it. However, you must choose the new school carefully.

Remember, you can choose your referee. If you can't avoid using the head, counter that reference with a rock solid one. References are normally only taken up after an applicant has been short-listed, and sometimes not until a job has been offered. So focus on the application and interview.

Don't worry about potential offence caused by applying for another job - it's a fact of life.

The kids are appalling, they're not learning anything and I'm exhausted. I want to give up.

Are you getting the support you're entitled to? Tell people how you are feeling. It won't go against you - most teachers face behaviour problems, and they can be remedied.

It's essential that you're observed. Your induction tutor can help you improve and point out the positive things you may not have noticed. After half a term's notice, you could move to a different, perhaps easier, school.

The school is in crisis - priorities are elsewhere, not on us.

It will be particularly hard to complain to the head and LEA in this situation, but all the more important. If you are not getting the support you need, you won't teach effectively and the children's learning will suffer further.

Sara Bubb answers students and teachers' questions in Friday magazine and on the web at

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